FORUM ON MINORITY ISSUES II
Second Session of the Forum on Minority Issues
12 – 13 November 2009
Secretariat of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
and of the DH-MIN
I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to share with the Forum some experience
of the Advisory Committee on the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection
of National Minorities in the field of minority political participation.
As already mentioned this morning, effective participation is guaranteed under the Framework
Convention. The state parties to the Framework Convention are required to create conditions
necessary for the effective participation of persons belonging to national minorities in cultural,
social and economic life and in public affairs. Effective participation should also be seen as a key
for the full enjoyment of other minority rights, such as linguistic rights. The Advisory Committee
on the Framework Convention decided therefore to devote its second thematic commentary to
minority effective participation. This commentary issued in 2008 drew on the Advisory
Committee’s country-by-country monitoring.
When analysing whether minority participation is effective, the Advisory Committee has
considered the actual minority representation in various mechanisms and the level of influence of
national minorities on the decision-making process. Whatever mechanism is chosen, whether
there are electoral arrangements, consultative bodies or autonomies, persons belonging to national
minorities should be given real opportunities to influence decision-making and the outcome
should adequately reflect their needs. Particular attention should also be paid by the states to the
participation of women from minority background in decision-making processes.
Minority representation in electoral bodies helps national minorities to express their views when
legislative measures and public policies of relevance to them are formulated. Exemptions from
threshold requirements necessary for participation in elected bodies have proved useful to
enhance national minority participation. In the view of the Advisory Committee, due attention
should also be paid to the design of constituency boundaries. Administrative reforms should not
result in the decrease of possibilities for minorities to be elected in constituencies.
The Advisory Committee considers that the setting-up of reserved or shared seat systems in
parliament do not automatically provide for effective minority participation and minority elected
representatives should be given a real possibility to influence decisions–making.
It is seen as positive if special parliamentary committees dealing with minority-related issues are
set up in parliaments and if minority languages are used in these committees. The Advisory
Committee considers that language proficiency requirements imposed on candidates of local and
parliamentary elections are not conducive to effective participation.
Under the Framework Convention, state parties should ensure that minorities have adequate
opportunities to effectively participate in election campaigns and through political parties. This
may imply the display of electoral advertising in minority languages. Internal democratic
processes for the selection of candidates of mainstream political parties are crucial in ensuring
minority participation. Prohibition of ethnic political parties is incompatible with the principles of
the Framework Convention if conditions for their registration are disproportionate and
As to participation at a local level, states are encouraged to provide non-citizens belonging to
national minorities with a possibility to vote and to stand as candidates in local elections and in
cultural governing boards of autonomies. The electoral system for autonomy arrangements should
provide for protection against possible abuses.
The Advisory Committee has also examined the functioning of minority consultative
mechanisms. They are an important tool for enhancing minority participation but cannot fully
replace minority electoral arrangements. Appropriate attention should be paid to the inclusiveness
and repesentativeness of the consultative bodies, including the participation of numerically
smaller minorities. Their appointment procedures and working methods need to be made
Thank you for your attention.
For more information on the Framework Convention, see http://www.coe.int/minorities.